What are the top Arizona game design programs?

Top Arizona Game Design Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1University of ArizonaTucson
2University of Advancing TechnologyTempe
3Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix

Our 2022 ranking of the top game design school programs in Arizona. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona

The College of Social & Behavioral Sciences at University of Arizona (UA or UArizona) houses the School of Information (iSchool). Arizona’s only iSchool, the School of Information emphasizes multidisciplinary studies in a collaborative, hands-on learning environment. Program options here include the Game Design & Development BS and a 12 credit hour Games and Simulation Certificate. Course examples across both programs include Game Programming, Machine Learning, Algorithms for Games, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, Computing and the Arts, and Advanced Game Development.

Students in all iSchool programs have the opportunity to participate in AU’s internship program and/or study abroad in one of more than 60 countries. The internship program provides a connection to local and national companies such as Hydrant, Octavia Digital Media, and the Enterprise Technology Division of State Farm.

Graduates of the iSchool at University of Arizona go on to establish careers in game design and development, digital marketing,  and UI/UX design, among others.

University of Arizona has two additional program option for students who would like to establish a career in the emerging field of Games and Behavior or those interested in a humanities-based degree. Programs include the Games and Behavior BA and the BA in Applied Humanities with a Game Studies Emphasis.

In addition to entertainment, the unique Games and Behavior BA program explores game design for health and wellness, education, job training, and social support. Housed in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the Games and Behavior BA explores psychology of play, game design and development, storytelling, audio technologies, and multimedia. Two focus areas allow students to specialize in Art of Games or Game Futures.

Course examples for the Art of Games Focus include Digital Storytelling and Culture, Technology of Sound, and Simulation Design and Development for Complex Problem Solving. Course examples for the Game Futures Focus include Diversity and Bias in Games, Data Mining and Discovery, and Disruptive Technologies. Core courses across both areas include eSports Industries, Gamification in Society, Ethics in a Digital World, and Monetizing Independent Gaming.

Graduates of the University of Arizona Games and Behavior BA Program are prepared to pursue careers in wide variety of fields such as Educational Games, Recreational Games, Digital Marketing, Medical and Simulation Games, and Gamification Design Consulting.

Housed in the College of Humanities, the Applied Studies BA with a Game Studies Emphasis consists of courses such as Introduction to Game Design, Global Video Game Cultures and Their Origins, Video Game Studies: Critical/Cultural Approaches, Introduction to Game Development, Applied Humanities Practice: Techniques and Technologies for Public Enrichment, Video Games as Artifacts: Appreciating Interactive Multimedia Entertainment, and The Video Game Industry: An Introduction to the Business of Making Money with Play. Students will complete an internship, portfolio, and Senior Capstone.

Graduates of the Applied Studies BA with a Game Studies Emphasis are prepared to pursue positions in the Global Game Industry, as well as Game and Media Journalism, Digital Humanities, New Media Policy, Digital Culture Studies, Entrepreneurship, Finance, and Law.

Established in 1885, University of Arizona was the first university in the state. A land-grant institution, UA opened with just a few students. Today, University of Arizona serves approximately 51,135 students, making it one of the state’s largest post-secondary institutions. UArizona offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in 150+ areas of study. Programs are offered across 20 colleges and nearly two dozen specialized schools. University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology

University of Advancing Technology (UAT) launched its Game Design (GD) Program in 1995. Today, UAT GD is one of the few fully accredited Game Design Programs to provide a comprehensive collection of games studies degree programs including Game Design (BA), Game Programming (BS), Game Production and Management (MS), and Game Art and Animation (BA).

Undergraduate programs consist of 120 credit hours, with 36 credit hours in the major. All programs feature live simulation and mentors, as well as the opportunity to work on technology-based and community projects individually and with a team. A mandatory industry internship is also part of every program.

Coursework for the Game Design BA explores game programming, interactive storytelling, systems design, game balancing, user experience design, play-testing, and design documentation. Students will work through the game creation process with other artists and programmers to complete a number of projects.

The Game Programming BS, also known as the Game Coder Degree, immerses students in coding and programming techniques for all areas of video game programming. Examples include game engine architecture, C++ programming, scripting, game play interaction, artificial intelligence (AI), application programming interfaces (APIs),  DirectX/Open GL development, data handling, Middleware, and networking.

The Game Art and Animation BA explores 2D/3D art and animation for mobile, PC, console, virtual reality platforms, and online. Students will work their way through the entire game production pipeline to create an original game. In addition, students will complete a professional portfolio and the Student Innovation Project.

At the graduate level, the Game Production and Management (GPM) MS consists of four nine-credit modules. In addition to the required Game Development and Game Production modules, students may select two additional module based on their interests and goals. Examples include App Development, Digital Maker, Technology Leadership, Robotics and Kinematics, Data Cloud A.I., and Technology Startup. The UAT MS may be completed on campus or online in 1-2 years.

Graduates of the Games Programs at University of Advancing Technology have been hired by major organizations and studios such as Nickelodeon, U.S. Department of Defense, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Intel, and Microsoft.

University of Advancing Technology was established in 1983 at the CAD Institute. The school is a 100% STEM-based, private, family-owned university that serves more than 700 students enrolled in 20+ technology degree programs. University of Advancing Technology is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

3. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona
Grand Canyon University

The College of Science, Engineering, & Technology at Grand Canyon University (GCU) has an ABET-accredited Computer Science (CS) BS Program. Within the program is a Game and Simulation Development Emphasis that explores programming, storyboard creation, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, mathematical modeling and simulation, and the process, production, and publishing of games for mobile operating systems.

Consisting of 128 credits, the CS BS Program at Grand Canyon University includes 88 credits in the major, more than a dozen labs, and the opportunity to select six credits of electives from any area. Course and lab examples for the program include AI in Games and Simulations Lecture Lab, Computer Programming, Game Design and Game Play Lecture Lab, Calculus for Science and Engineering, Mobile Game Development Lecture & Lab, Principles of Modeling and Simulation Lecture & Lab, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Principles of Programming Languages and Lecture Lab.

Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or participate in the Grand Canyon University Study Abroad Program.

The GCU CS Program culminates with a Capstone Project that allows students to work in teams create, design, research, produce, and present a project in their chosen area.

Graduates of the CS BS with Game and Simulation Development at Grand Canyon University go on to establish careers in areas such as game design and development, game programming, game or app design, serious games, animation, software development, software engineering, web development, digital interface design, computer programming, and computer and information systems management.

Grand Canyon University was chartered in 1949 as Grand Canyon College. The school opened with just 100 students and 16 faculty members. Today, GCU serves roughly 25,000 students enrolled in more than 275 programs across nine colleges. Grand Canyon University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1968.